Gary Vermeer, 90, founder and chairman emeritus of Vermeer Corp. in Pella, Iowa, died Feb. 2, at the Comfort House of Pella.

He is survived by his wife, Matilda, and three children and their spouses, Stanley and Alma Vermeer, Robert and Lois Vermeer, and Mary and Dale Andringa, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Gary Vermeer and a cousin started the business in 1948, after inventing a wagon hoist five years earlier, which made it easier to unload corn. Demand for the labor-saving device from his neighbors prompted him to open Vermeer Mfg. Co.

From that small operation, the company has grown over the past 60 years to an international organization that manufactures agricultural, construction, environmental and industrial equipment. Today, Vermeer Corp. has industrial dealerships in more than 60 countries and on every continent except Antarctica, in addition to hundreds of agricultural equipment dealers throughout the United States. Its corporate offices and manufacturing facility in Pella cover 1.5 million sq ft — more than 33 acres — under roof. That includes seven manufacturing plants, a parts distribution center and the Global Pavilion, which includes an arena, training center and the Vermeer Museum. Two of Gary Vermeer’s children, Robert Vermeer and Mary Vermeer Andringa, now serve as co-CEOs of Vermeer Corp. Three of his grandchildren also are active in the corporation.

Under Vermeer’s guidance, other landmark products manufactured by the company include stump cutters, trenchers and tree spades, among many others.  Today, the company manufactures more than 100 product models, including a more recent line of Vermeer Navigator horizontal directional drills and many other products in its four product segments: forage management, specialty excavation, environmental transformation and underground installation.

Born Sept. 29, 1918, in Pella, to Jacob and Anna Vermeer, Gary Vermeer was raised in a farming community with strong Dutch roots. After his marriage in 1941 to Matilda Van Gorp, the couple started their lives together with 120 acres of land. Throughout the years, Vermeer continued to accumulate farmland, and though he hired farm managers as factory demands increased, Vermeer always took time out of his schedule to climb back on the cultivator, planter or combine, as recently as spring 2007. All of his grandchildren — and many of his great grandchildren — have enjoyed sitting at his knee or by his side while he harvested corn.

In addition to Gary Vermeer’s notable contributions to manufacturing, he is well known for his philanthropy and activism in the community.  The company started a foundation in 1958 to set aside a portion of the company’s profits. Over the years, the Vermeer Charitable Foundation has made significant contributions to many projects, both locally and worldwide.

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